Angry fans of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson are in full clicktivist mode following his suspension Wednesday from the enormously popular A&E program. On Twitter and Facebook -- and through dozens of online petitions -- viewers of the reality show are expressing their outrage and disappointment, accusing the cable network of punishing the Duck Commander merely for expressing a Biblical viewpoint.
On Wednesday, Robertson was put on indefinite hiatus after calling homosexuality a sin and equating it with bestiality in a new interview with GQ magazine.
On the Facebook pages of A&E and “Duck Dynasty” Thursday, comments were pouring in at several dozen per minute. Vowing to boycott the network, the fans say they vehemently defend Robertson’s right to express his belief in Biblical scripture.
“I’m with Phil,” one commenter wrote. “Nobody wants to see the truth, these people going against God and the Bible.”
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“While I do not watch Duck Dynasty, I applaud their belief in family, marriage and the Bible,” wrote another. “God’s word is not opinion.”
“The Robertson family has never hid the fact that they were conservative Bible believing Christians,” wrote another.
One commenter pasted a passage from Corinthians 6:9, which states, among other things, that men who have sex with men will not “inherit the kingdom of God.”
“Duck Dynasty” is easily the most popular show in A&E’s history. Its season premiere in August, attracted 11.8 million viewers, a cable record for a reality show.
Amid the backlash against A&E, many fans of the series appear to be expressing frustration over a broader sense of feeling muzzled in an increasingly intolerant climate. The gay-rights movement has made rapid and unprecedented strides toward mainstream acceptance over the last two decades, but not everyone has caught up. Holding Robertson up as a kind of fundamentalist martyr, fans say his suspension underscores a growing hostility toward anyone who expresses Biblical views on homosexuality.
#DuckDynasty 's Phil Robertson was wrong in tone and facts, but I wonder if quoting Bible re: homosexual acts will now get you fired.
â€” Fr. Jonathan Morris (@fatherjonathan) December 19, 2013
This crap is out of control: A&E suspends Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson for agreeing with the Bible http://t.co/GFiCEHC0qj
â€” Herman Cain (@THEHermanCain) December 19, 2013
It's sad that someone says they are against homosexuality and then get punished. I support Phil Robertson and the bible. #TeamPhilRobertson
â€” Taylor Daily (@tdailyfreshness) December 19, 2013
Proponents of gay rights don’t see it that way. In a statement Wednesday, GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz said Robertson’s views don’t reflect those of the majority of Americans or Christians. “Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe,” he said. “He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans -- and Americans -- who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples.”
GLAAD, meanwhile, is bearing some of the brunt of the pro-Phil backlash. On its Facebook page, fans of the show have been posting hundreds of comments and memes. GLAAD had called A&E to condemn Robertson’s comments shortly before the network made the decision to suspend him, and fans of the series are blaming the gay-rights group for the dustup.
“I have never said a negative word about your community, but that changes today!!” one Facebooker wrote.
“Thank you for revealing to the entire country how intolerant and fascist homosexual activists have become,” wrote another. “Keep up the good work.”
Numerous Facebook pages have sprouted up in support of Robertson, some growing rapidly. The “Bring Back Phil Robertson” page has attracted more than 376,000 likes in less than 24 hours. The “Boycott A&E” page was up to just over 4,200 by Thursday afternoon.
The network acted swiftly in its decision to suspend Robertson, issuing a strongly worded statement in which it said it was “extremely disappointed” to have read Robertson’s comments.
Asked in the GQ interview what he believed was a sin, Robertson said, “start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
On Twitter, some users are accusing GQ of purposely baiting Robertson for the purposes of stirring up controversy. (The article is currently the most popular story on GQ's website.)
â€” Chad Capehart (@ChadCapehart) December 19, 2013
A&E is owned by A&E Networks, a joint venture between the Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) and the privately held Hearst Corporation.